Who knew that one day we would have access to the answers to our questions at a click of a button? The creation of the internet led to online shopping, online reading, online messaging and calling, and, most importantly, social media. The Internet has made connectivity around the world possible, whether it be with friends, family, celebrities, or strangers, through the use of social media. While social media gives us opportunities to connect with people in new ways and allows us to share the excitement of our everyday lives, there is also a downside to it.
Social media usage can negatively impact people’s lives because it can develop into an addiction, where we are constantly checking our phones at the sound or sight of a notification. This causes us to become distracted while working on an assignment or having a conversation, leading to an inability to stay attentive and focused at times when one should be. This frequent checking of social media accounts can lead to depression and anxiety, as well as a loss of sleep quality when using our phones before bed. Our generation has become glued to their phones as a result of social media addiction, which is harming real-life relationships by increasing online communication and decreasing face-to-face interactions. Social media can also influence people to act a certain way that they perceive as “the norm” from what is portrayed online by their friends or celebrities they follow. This can lead to dangerous behaviors because people copy what they see others doing online, even though it is most likely not reality.
One major problem with social media is that frequent use can increase the odds of developing depression and anxiety. This is because social media is used as a way for people to advertise the best parts of their lives and can set unrealistic standards for beauty and success. These unrealistic standards can cause many people, especially impressionable teenage girls, to look down on themselves if they don’t look like the models they see online. These constant comparisons between themselves and the false, unattainable realities of how they “should” look can lead to depression.
The anxiety that emerges from social media use is a result of FOMO, the fear of missing out. This FOMO stems from the jealousy and envy that we feel upon seeing social media posts in which we perceive others as having more fun or living better lives than us. We then compare our lives to theirs based on what we see online, but when we do this, we fail to remember that these posts only portray the highlights of others’ lives and not the full story. Social media alters our perceptions of what is normal, giving us a false base for comparison between ourselves and others, yet we fail to realize this when making these comparisons. FOMO also occurs when you come across a post online and discover that your friends went out without inviting you. Without social media, you would’ve never known about this and everything would have been fine, however, now you are worried and upset that they did not invite you. This constant FOMO that occurs from social media use can lead to depression and anxiety in people of all ages.
Social media can also harm relationships because people are losing the ability to effectively communicate in face to face conversations as a result of the increasing use of online communication. People will message each other from across the room or even while sitting next to each other, rather than talking to each other in real life. Social media has made people accustom to hiding behind the security of the internet instead of having to face the embarrassment or awkwardness of real-life conversations. If we limit our communications with each other to behind a computer or phone screen, then we are going to eventually lose the ability to talk to each other in real life. If we keep this up, then we will lose touch with reality and eventually live in a world where everyone pulls out their phones to see what people are doing on social media, rather than starting real life conversations with the people around them.
Social media use has also been linked to an increase in dangerous behaviors. This is a direct result of false perceptions of reality created by what people post on social media. People are quick to imitate what others are doing or what they think others are doing. This is especially true among impressionable young people. For example, college students post pictures of them partying and drinking to show their online followers or “friends” all the fun they are having, but they are usually falsifying reality to appear cool or fun in their posts. This results in some college students becoming heavy drinkers because they think this is the norm since that is what they see portrayed on social media, but the reality is that most college students are not heavy drinkers, a fact that is shocking to them. They believe everyone is doing it, so they think they’re just hopping on the bandwagon, however, they are just destroying their livers and risking serious injury or even death with their actions. Social media can be dangerous because the perception of “reality” that is portrayed online results in imitation of these dangerous behaviors.
Social media affects our physical health by impacting the quality of our sleep. According to Medical News Today, internet usage is impacting our sleep because we “feel compelled to be active on these websites at all hours, including late at night [and] exposure to bright screens before bedtime has been linked to disturbed sleep” (Cohut). This compulsion to be on social media all hours of the day creates stress that keeps us up at night by either preventing us from falling asleep or staying asleep because we fear we will miss something if we go offline. The same problem occurs with exposure to bright lights before going to sleep because our circadian rhythm gets out of whack if we use lots of artificial light late at night and then attempt to go to bed following immediately, or shortly after, this exposure. We find ourselves tossing and turning and frustrated when we have been sitting in bed unable to fall asleep. Exposure to artificial light from our phones before bed can result in a loss of sleep, which in turn results in irritability, fatigue, trouble concentrating, lethargy, and forgetfulness the next day. When we continue to get an inadequate amount of sleep, we develop an increased risk for depression, stroke, hallucinations, weakened immune system, and an increased potential for car accidents. Our social media use needs to be limited so that we can fall asleep more easily, get the proper amount of sleep, and feel well rested the next day to avoid the complications that result from sleep deprivation.
Another problem with social media usage is that it decreases productivity. Our generation has developed a constant need to want to check our social media, even while at work or at school, which distracts us from staying attentive and focused. If we are in class and our phone buzzes, we are unable to stay focused on the lecture from then on because our mind will be unable to ignore the buzz until we can check our notifications. The constant looming thought of the need to check our social media is a distraction itself, but social media can also lead to interruptions in our focus when we are constantly picking up our phones. This makes it take much longer to complete a task if we are losing our train of thought by taking a break every few minutes to check our social media accounts. Some workplaces, such as corporate offices, have tried to limit social media usage in the workplace by blocking access to such websites on their Wi-Fi or on company computers in an attempt to increase productivity. While this does lower the distraction of social media, it does not completely eradicate it. This is because there are ways around this blockage and for some people, the constant urge to check their social media may still be present. Our excessive use, and in some cases, addiction to social media is a threat to our cognitive abilities as the distraction of social media is constantly diverting our attention away from the task at hand.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, social media can also be beneficial. It creates extensive online networks that can instantly link people from all over the world and many of them would have otherwise never come in contact. It can keep friends in touch with each other when one of them moves away. Social media also allows us to keep up with many relationships even when we haven’t seen someone in a while. It allows us to be constantly up to date in world events and never be out of the loop. Social media has increased our online communication by enabling us to communicate with each other instantly from all over the world, but our ability to deeply connect with each other in face-to-face interactions is declining as a result. This problem will only worsen if we keep up our excessive use of social media.
In conclusion, social media usage can have a detrimental effect on people’s lives. This is because it can disrupt our sleep, which can lead to severe complications. And when our media usage develops into an addiction, we become distracted and develop an inability to stay attentive and focused at times when we should be. Our frequent checking of social media accounts can also lead to depression and anxiety when we compare ourselves to others. Social media can also lead to dangerous behaviors because people copy what they see others doing online, even though it is most likely not reality. We must not continue down this path of unhealthy social media use and addiction or our outlook on the world and the way we communicate will never be the same.